New legislation to protect those who are pregnant or who have returned from maternity, shared parental or adoption leave came a step closer following a second reading in the House of Lords at the beginning of March.
The measures are designed to tackle the discrimination reported by women during pregnancy and maternity leave, with 77% saying they had a negative experience or suffered potential discrimination during this time. Some 11% of those canvassed reported being dismissed or made compulsorily redundant, when their colleagues were not. Some 20% of mothers reported other financial loss such as demotion or missing out on promotion and being excluded from non-salary benefits.
Current legislation places an obligation on employers to offer suitable alternative employment to a parent on maternity leave when their job is at risk of redundancy, but only where the alternative vacancy exists. The Protection from Redundancy (Pregnancy and Family Leave) Bill, commonly referred to as the ‘pregnancy and maternity discrimination bill’, is designed to extend protection to those who are pregnant or have returned from maternity leave, shared parental leave or adoption leave. The bill, introduced by Dan Jarvis MP and backed by the government, will extend this redundancy protection to pregnant women before they take maternity leave, and for new parents during the six months after they return to work from a relevant form of leave. This significantly increases the level of security to parents taking time out of the workplace to raise a family, putting them at the top of the list for alternative roes.
Subject to the Bill becoming law in its current form, pregnant women and those back from family leave should find themselves in a stronger position, with employers required to offer alternative vacancies to anyone under threat of redundancy in those situations.
As the Bill is still being reviewed, employers should take this opportunity to get up to speed on the draft legislation, with a view to having systems in place ready to implement if the legislation is passed.